Voice-over-IP, a technology that lets phones act like PCs and vice versa, is about to take off

When a customer walks into any of the 150 branches of Sports Soccer, a retailer of sports clothing and merchandise in Britain and Belgium, he might as well be walking into all of them. If a certain product — say, a soccer jersey — is unavailable in the store he’s in, the clerk can check the inventory of all nearby branches through a brief phone query. The clerk doesn’t actually talk to anyone, but with a few keystrokes she uses the phone to check a database and locate the nearest store with the shirt.


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